Ripples of controversy in rollout of `The Wave'

Anniversary gives rise to tribute -- but that fails to sit well with everybody

Sports Plus

November 11, 2001|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

Let's all get up and honor the man who brought sports fans "The Wave."

And let's be sure to sit right down when we're done.

That's what happened Nov. 3 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, when the University of Washington paid homage to alumnus Robb Weller. Love them or hate them, Weller and former band director Bill Bissell are credited with being the first people to get members of the crowd to stand up and raise their arms, and then sit down -- a move done sequentially so that "The Wave" appears to surge around the stadium.

The initial roll crested during the third quarter Oct. 31, 1981, when Stanford visited Seattle, and it took on a life of its own when the Huskies rallied with 28 consecutive points en route to a 42-31 win over star quarterback John Elway and the Cardinal.

"The Wave" has since become a staple in stadiums across the world, but until being honored this month, all Weller had received from the university was a T-shirt that said, "Let's Do The Wave."

"I haven't even gotten a free hot dog out of the deal," Weller told The Seattle Times a few years ago.

Not that Weller needs the money. A former co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight, he now helps produce A&E Biography segments and programs for the History Channel.

Weller's most famous production, however, remains the "The Wave." He says it evolved from a routine in which he got fans in the student section to toss their arms up and down. Weller credited Bissell with getting him to spread it around the stadium.

"Nobody thought, `Thank God, they invented "The Wave," ' But we do now," Weller said. "Think of how many boring games it's saved."

Making waves

Weller's story has been well-chronicled, but to a fellow who calls himself Krazy George Henderson, it's inaccurate.

Krazy George, a pro sports cheerleader and San Francisco Bay Area pro team booster, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he started the fad during a New York Yankees-Oakland Athletics playoff game Oct. 15, 1981 -- two weeks before Weller's first wave.

Krazy George even provides proof, showing that "The Wave" opens and ends the A's highlight film from the 1981 season.

The dispute has been argued by the highest of authorities." `Dandy' Don [Meredith] said on Monday Night Football that it was Seattle, and Howard Cosell corrected him and said it was me," Krazy George said. "This has been gnawing at me."

Why does it matter?

"It's like the guy who invented the paper clip," George said. "It doesn't matter to 99.9 percent of the population who invented the paper clip. But to the guy who invented it, it's important."

They both may be wrong. Some soccer fans recall the fan participation craze beginning as "The Mexican Wave" at the 1970 World Cup finals.

Maybe Weller can address the issue on the History Channel with an episode of History's Mysteries.

No floodgates

"The Wave" would look pretty lame at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, where the likely-to-be-contracted Expos drew an average of 7,648 fans -- fewer than 10 minor-league clubs.

Said Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly: "This is the only team in the big leagues with a WON'T CALL window."

Last one standing

The New Jersey Jackals, an independent minor-league baseball team, stirred its fans to action with a "Survive the Stadium" promotion late this past season.

Eight contestants desperate for $5,000 lived at Yogi Berra Stadium in Upper Montclair for up to a week, subsisting on hot dogs and water, showering under a dugout hose and brushing teeth with restroom soap. Each night, fans voted one of them out.

The survivor was Vicky Logan, 38, of Roseland, N.J., who led fans in theY.M.C.A. dance, did cartwheels and used a slingshot to fling T-shirts into the crowd.

Unreserved ticket sales jumped from 600 a game to about 1,500. But, like a good wave, they went right back down again.

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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